"Egaez?" Kate repeated.
"That means you..." Jessica said, "You belong to...that is to say..."
"I live with Mavra. But no more!" the boy said with a stomp of his bare foot.
"Mavra. That's the woman who had these?" Mr. Malleus asked, raising the deck of cards.
The boy nodded. "Run away. Use that." He indicated the cards.
"I'm afraid I don't understand," Mr. Malleus said.
"Not really cards," the boy said. He reached for the deck. Mr. Malleus clutched them to his chest. He sized the boy up and glanced at Mr. Cryer. Mr. Cryer nodded and lifted his wand. Under Mr. Cryer's cover, Mr. Malleus handed over the deck.
The boy snapped his fingers. The box opened up like a book. As if moved by an invisible hand, the cards shifted in his hands, arranging themselves into a pattern of two, then four, then eight, joining and then separating at the edges, folding and unfolding in complicated designs like a cat's cradle of cardstock.
"It's a map!" Jessica shouted. And indeed it was. Kate recognized the basic contours of North America: Florida, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River running through the middle. The map was crisscrossed with lines in half a dozen colors. Wherever the lines crossed there was a circle and a runic inscription that matched the runes Kate had seen on the box.
"Map," the boy said with a smile.
"A map of the Fae world?" Mr. Cryer asked, his eyes as big as saucers.
"Yes," the boy said. "Map of Lamrherri. Fae world."
Mr. Malleus could almost have burned a hole in the map with his piercing stare. "Corbin, we've got to get this to a safe place. Promise or no promise, the Fae aren't going to part with something like this willingly."
"I quite agree, Jacob." Mr. Cryer turned to the boy.
"Egaez, is that right? Egaez, you used this map to run away?"
The boy nodded. Then he bowed his head. "Help me find way out. But Mavra send Mhrrazael, Gwarz, Ewunrsar. Chase many days. Want map back. Want me back." He sniffed. "So sorry," he whispered.
"You didn't want to go back," Mr. Malleus said. "Quite understandable. You hid the map, threw it away?"
"I think, they find map, they let me go. They look for map, give me time to get away. I not think anyone else find map first." He looked at Jessica with tears in his pale blue eyes. "I not mean you be in trouble! Honest!"
"Miss Robinson," Mr. Malleus said, "I believe I mentioned the fact that Fae do not lie. Egaez here was raised to understand the importance of telling the truth."
Jessica swallowed hard.
"I was just collecting cans. I'm saving up for a new CD." She spoke slowly, as if she didn't know what her next word would be until it came out of her mouth. "I saw the cards in the bushes. On the ground. I just thought they looked interesting."
She looked up at him.
"I know you didn't do it on purpose," she said. She frowned. She began to cry. "But...I've just had a very strange day."
"As soon as you find, I know you in trouble," Egaez said. "I follow you all day long, try to keep you safe."
"You what?" Kate blurted.
"Watch you from bushes. Watch you from grass while you hide in tree. Try to...to...distract. I fight with Gwarz while you—" he indicated Mr. Malleus "—fight with others."
"It was you!" Kate said.
"Then I follow you to...to place of cold metal. Wait there. Use magic to help men wake up."
"I'll bet that's how they found us under the tracks," Mr. Cryer whispered to Kate. "They must have followed Egaez without him knowing it."
"Egaez," Mr. Malleus said, "We need to leave, before more of Mavra's friends show up. I can take you and the map to somewhere safe. Are you ready?"
Egaez smiled weakly again at Kate, Jessica, and Mr. Cryer. "So sorry," he said again.
"I-I guess it's all right," Jessica said. "You didn't know. And you helped us, after all."
"If you don't mind..." Mr. Malleus held up the map. Egaez snapped his fingers and it folded in on itself, shuffling and reshuffling, until it once again appeared to be nothing but an old, beat up pack of playing cards.
"Now, stand next to me and hold my hand," Mr. Malleus said. With a sudden crack! Mr. Malleus and Egaez were gone.
Mr. Cryer used magic to dry their clothes and soon the three were walking back toward town. Jessica remembered to take them back a different way so they wouldn't run into Molly. It would be hard to explain how Jessica had managed to lose one "uncle" and gain another!
"Mr. Cryer?" Kate wasn't sure how to raise the subject, but she felt she had to.
"Jessica doesn't have to decide today, does she? About coming to Malkin?"
"She's got about six weeks if she needs it," Mr. Cryer answered. "Do you need a little more time, Jessica?"
There was silence.
"This has been a rough day, Jessica," Mr. Cryer continued. "If you need to sleep on it, that's fine."
"I—" Jessica began.
"We can set a time with your parents and I can come back for your answer. Kate can come too if you like."
"Yeah," Kate chimed in. "Maybe then we can get that ice cream!"
"It's just that—"
"No need to make excuses, Jessica. We understand."
"Will you people let me finish?" Jessica shouted.
"Oops. Sorry." Kate blushed.
"What I'm trying to say is, I think I want to say yes—if my parents let me."
"Are you sure?" Mr. Cryer asked.
"Well, first I was. Then when those Changelings attacked us, I definitely wasn't. But when I think about what Mr. Malleus said...I saved your lives. I mean...wow."
"Wow indeed," Mr. Cryer said. "You have an amazing power, Jessica. And a great Muggle philosopher once said, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' Is that sort of what you're thinking about?"
"Yeah," Jessica said. "I hated what I did to Tom Walker—even if he deserved it! I don't want to use magic to hurt people, but if I can help them..."
Mr. Cryer smiled. "Jessica, it's kids like you that make me proud to be a teacher."
They turned onto Redbud Way.
"Now, remember," Mr. Cryer explained, "Jessica's parents aren't going to realize we've been gone so long. Be sure to apologize for being late, but don't be surprised that they've lost track of time. Jessica, if you'd like me to come and explain things to them later, I will. It's only fair that they know what has happened...eventually."
"Sure," she said. "Hey, Kate! I just remembered: I'm invited to a pool party next weekend. Do you think you could come?"
"That would be great! But I'll have to get one of my parents to bring me. I'll ask them about it and send you an owl."
"An owl?" Jessica frowned.
"I'll explain it later," Kate said. "Look, isn't that your house up ahead?"
"I guess there's lots of stuff I still have to learn."
"Don't worry," Mr. Cryer said. "You've got all the time in the world."